Charges of internet censorship could harm U.S.-China relations

The Chinese Foreign Ministry lashed out Jan. 22 against a speech on internet censorship made the previous day by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, calling on the United States government “to respect the truth and to stop using the so-called internet freedom question to level baseless accusations,” reports the New York Times. Ma Zhaoxu, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, said in a written statement that the criticism leveled by Mrs. Clinton was “harmful to Sino-American relations.” The statement signaled that China was ready to wrestle politically with the United States in the debate over internet censorship. The debate was brought to the fore in China last week when Google announced it might shut down its Chinese-language search engine, Google.cn, and curtail its other operations in mainland China if Chinese officials did not back down from requiring Google to censor search results. Until now, the Chinese government had been trying to frame the dispute with Google as a commercial matter, but in the aftermath of Mrs. Clinton’s speech, that attitude could be changing. Mrs. Clinton pointedly said that “a new information curtain is descending across much of the world” and identified China as one of a handful of countries that had stepped up internet censorship in the past year. Her speech was the first by a senior American official that put forward internet freedom as a plank of American foreign policy…

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U.S. government posting wealth of data online

In a move that could benefit researchers and consumers alike, the Obama administration is posting to the internet a wealth of government data from all Cabinet-level departments on topics ranging from child car seats to Medicare services, reports the Associated Press. The mountain of newly available information comes a year and a day after President Obama promised on his first full day on the job an open, transparent government. Under a Dec. 8 White House directive, each department must post online at least three collections of “high-value” government data that never have been previously disclosed. The Transportation Department will post ratings for 2,400 lines of tires for consumer safety based on tire tread wear, traction performance, and temperature resistance. The Labor Department will release the names of 80,000 workplaces where injuries and illness have occurred over the past 10 years. A Medicare database that previously was available for a fee of $100 on CD-ROM now can be downloaded free of charge, providing detailed breakdowns of payments for Medicare services. The Medicare data will be sortable by the type of medical service provided. “We’re democratizing data,” White House Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra said in an interview…

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If your kids are awake, they’re probably online

The New York Times reports that the average young American now spends practically every waking minute–except for the time in school–using a smart phone, computer, television or other electronic device, according to a new study from the Kaiser Family Foundation. Those ages 8 to 18 spend more than seven and a half hours a day with such devices, compared with less than six and a half hours five years ago, when the study was last conducted. And that does not count the hour and a half that youths spend texting, or the half-hour they talk on their cellphones. And because so many of them are multitasking–say, surfing the internet while listening to music–they pack on average nearly 11 hours of media content into that seven and a half hours. “I feel like my days would be boring without it,” said Francisco Sepulveda, a 14-year-old Bronx eighth grader who uses his smart phone to surf the web, watch videos, listen to music–and send or receive about 500 texts a day…

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Colleges increasingly use social media to interact

Social media accounts are becoming as common as work e-mail for admission counselors at Evangel University. They now have work accounts on Facebook where they converse with future students. “(The students) don’t return a phone call but respond to a Facebook message,” said Jeff Burnett, director of admissions at Evangel. As students and society change the way they communicate, universities and colleges in Springfield are building a presence on sites like Facebook or Twitter, where they believe their constituents are hanging out. “People are communicating in so many ways that you try to do the best you can with all of them,” said Joel Doepker, spokesman for the Ozarks Technical Community College. “We want to hit them all.”

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Verizon Wireless ups data charges to raise revenue

Reuters reports that Verizon Wireless said on Jan. 15 that the company is raising its prices for data services like mobile web surfing to increase revenue and profits. The venture of Verizon Communications Inc and Vodafone Group Plc said that instead of a $19.99 service plan for 75 megabytes of data downloads, it will now offer a $9.99 per month plan which caps data use at 25 megabytes of downloads. The company also announced an unlimited talking and text, video and picture messaging plan for $89.99 a month. The move comes as Verizon and its rivals look for ways to ease pressure on their data networks as the growing popularity of Internet capable phones increases demands on data services…

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Haiti text donations to Red Cross pass $5M

U.S. cell phone users have contributed more than $5 million in $10 increments to the Red Cross for Haiti disaster relief, by far the largest outpouring of support via mobile devices in history, reports the Associated Press. The response to the devastating earthquake produced the highest amount of mobile donations “that we have ever seen,” said Jenifer Snyder, executive director of mGive Foundation, the nonprofit group that is working with the Red Cross and wireless carriers to channel the donations. To donate to the Red Cross, mobile users are texting the word “Haiti” to the number 90999. Snyder said the money is coming in at a rate of roughly $200,000 an hour. As of Thursday afternoon, people had donated $5.1 million. “We could be handling more,” she said. “We are not at capacity.” Red Cross spokesman Roger Lowe called the outpouring of $10 donations by hundreds of thousands of mobile users “nothing short of awe-inspiring.” But he said the largest donations the organization is getting is still coming in online…

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